BBC will show Jerusalem film it previously banned

By Rosa Doherty, October 25, 2013
Ilan Ziv

Ilan Ziv

The BBC is to show a controversial documentary about Jerusalem whose broadcast was cancelled at the last minute earlier this year.

Ilan Ziv’s film, Jerusalem: An Archaeological Mystery Story, was originally scheduled to be aired in April as part of a series on the history of archaeology.

But it was pulled after the corporation decided it “did not fit editorially” within the series.

But a viewer who contacted the BBC to ask why the programme had been cancelled said he was told that “it might have been controversial”.

The cancellation angered Mr Ziv, an Israeli programme-maker, who said at the time that he had been told of the decision only a few days before the broadcast, and that the film’s content had been called into question during the editing process.

“Part of the editorial debate was that one freelance employee who was hired as part of the re-versioning of the film called it propaganda,” he said. “I was also told that another person inside the BBC claimed that the film drove some political point of view.”

The documentary advanced a theory that the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD did not send the Jews into the diaspora. As the BBC synopsis put it: “The exile of the Jewish people has played a central role in Christian and Jewish theology. But what if the exile never actually happened?”

Now a re-edited version of the film, with the new title Searching for Exile: Truth or Myth? will be broadcast on BBC4 on November 3, followed by a
pre-recorded panel debate with Mr Ziv.

The BBC claims that the new version addresses both its previous editorial concerns and Mr Ziv’s issue with the way the content had been edited.

It said: “There’s an additional section which explores the role of Christian theology in contributing to the idea of Jewish exile and the stereotype of the ‘Wandering Jew’.”

But it is not clear precisely how the issues that caused the original film to be withdrawn have been resolved.

The BBC added that the title had been changed “to better reflect the overall question that the film is exploring.”

Mr Ziv said: “I worked directly with the editor this time. We have included enough of the Christian element that was originally cut, so now it makes sense.”

Mr Ziv criticised people, particularly in Israel, who may be offended. He said: “The problem with this film is it offers a new way of looking at history.”

Last updated: 12:02pm, November 7 2013